Background: Inflammation is a key contributor to central nervous system (CNS) injury such as stroke, and is a major target for therapeutic intervention. Effective treatments for CNS injuries are limited and applicable to only a minority of patients. Stem cell-based therapies are increasingly considered for the treatment of CNS disease, because they can be used as in-situ regulators of inflammation, and improve tissue repair and recovery. One promising option is the use of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can secrete anti-inflammatory and trophic factors, can migrate towards inflamed and injured sites or can be implanted locally. Here we tested the hypothesis that pre-treatment with inflammatory cytokines can prime MSCs towards an anti-inflammatory and pro-trophic phenotype in vitro.
Methods: Human MSCs from three different donors were cultured in vitro and treated with inflammatory mediators as follows: interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-1β, tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) or interferon-γ. After 24 h of treatment, cell supernatants were analysed by ELISA for expression of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), IL-10, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). To confirm the anti-inflammatory potential of MSCs, immortalised mouse microglial BV2 cells were treated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and exposed to conditioned media (CM) of naïve or IL-1-primed MSCs, and levels of secreted microglial-derived inflammatory mediators including TNF-α, IL-10, G-CSF and IL-6 were measured by ELISA.
Results: Unstimulated MSCs constitutively expressed anti-inflammatory cytokines and trophic factors (IL-10, VEGF, BDNF, G-CSF, NGF and IL-1Ra). MSCs primed with IL-1α or IL-1β showed increased secretion of G-CSF, which was blocked by IL-1Ra. Furthermore, LPS-treated BV2 cells secreted less inflammatory and apoptotic markers, and showed increased secretion of the anti-inflammatory IL-10 in response to treatment with CM of IL-1-primed MSCs compared with CM of unprimed MSCs.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that priming MSCs with IL-1 increases expression of trophic factor G-CSF through an IL-1 receptor type 1 (IL-1R1) mechanism, and induces a reduction in the secretion of inflammatory mediators in LPS-activated microglial cells. The results therefore support the potential use of preconditioning treatments of stem cells in future therapies.
Keywords: Bone marrow-derived stromal cells; Cytokines; Human mesenchymal stem cells; Interleukin-1; Priming; Stroke.